Friday, August 15, 2003

After the lights go on... 

There is nothing like a crisis to be the great equalizer. Well-heeled or not in New York, you were scrounging for water, transportation, and a place to sleep it out, if possible, before trying again in the morning to leave that "well-managed" disaster of a city.

Nothing like a physical crisis of that nature, blackout, no electricity, sometimes no water, to remind us of our brothers and sisters in Iraq, who have been living under much worse conditions than we could imagine, with no steady supply of electricity since the war began in February of this year, a situation that has worsened since the Americans gained control of the country.

John Lennon wrote a song called Instant Karma, but there is something not completely instant about this karma. A long neglected power grid in the U.S., antiquated and inadequate to handle the demand of electricity in many areas of the U.S., is but one facet of the problem. This karma is instant in this one way: we instantly knew the feeling of millions of Iraqis, faced with rolling blackouts everyday, unsure of the reasons, wandering if the cause is terrorism.

The blackout, a great equalizer. Now we know how it feels to have every aspect of life disrupted, to have such an element of uncertainty so that one doesn't know what tomorrow, or even tonight will bring.

Iraqis, not appearing facetious, have offered their tips for surviving blackouts. They rule the modern world experience for this type of crisis, thanks to our destruction of their infrastructure, neglect in rebuilding, and on-going acts of terrorism against the electrical system.

The question is, will we cynically demand answers here, while neglecting to speak up for our Iraqi bretheren, the people we were to "liberate", (apparently, liberating them from their air-conditioning is the most important "liberation" that has been accomplished. Many have said they'll take back Sadam if it means getting back their AC ). Will we demand real answers for real problems, in our electrical grid, our priorities here, and our priorities in Iraq?

Is it a simple question of putting people before profits? Is the answer less reliance on our archaic energy grid, rather than more? Perhaps one place to start is the history of regulation of our electrical utilities, first begun by Franklin D. Roosevelt to rid the utilities of corruption. Roosevelt's deregulation was undone by, George Bush Sr:

But then came George the First. In 1992, just prior to his departure from the White House, President Bush Senior gave the power industry one long deep-through-the-teeth kiss good-bye: federal deregulation of electricity. It was a legacy he wanted to leave for his son, the gratitude of power companies which ponied up $16 million for the Republican campaign of 2000, seven times the sum they gave Democrats.

But Poppy Bush's gift of deregulating of wholesale prices set by the feds only got the power pirates halfway to the plunder of Joe Ratepayer. For the big payday they needed deregulation at the state level. There were only two states, California and Texas, big enough and Republican enough to put the electricity market con into operation.